GOLDEN VALLEY - In a turnaround by the Arizona Department of Health Services, the Golden Valley Fire District was awarded the Certificate of Necessity to operate a district-run ambulance service in Golden Valley.
Interim Director Cory Nelson rejected an administrative law judge's recommendation from February, citing that the findings in that recommendation "are not supported by the greater weight of credible evidence and are not consistent with applicable law."
The district was competing with River Medical, the current certificate holder for the region. While the report from Nelson says that there were no "deficiencies or systematic problems with the ambulance service provided by River Medical," Nelson added that the "benefit to Golden Valley residents outweighs the financial impact on River Medical."
The district is expected to have ambulance services up and running within a month, according to Fire Chief Tom O'Donohue.
"I think this was the mouse that roared. Golden Valley wins the CON," said O'Donohue.
"I really have to thank multiple fire district board members that, since I began in 2010, it is what they wanted to see. That message has been carried out almost 100 percent with every board member that has sat on that board. The staff has worked really hard. They proved their worth because we are going to be serving our community even better now."
One of the deciding factors in the ruling was the response times from River Medical versus the proposed response times from GVFD. River Medical, operating two ambulances in Golden Valley, responded to 78 percent of their calls within 15 minutes, with 61 percent of them within 10 minutes.
GVFD said the department could respond to 91 percent of calls within 15 minutes, with 74 percent of them within 10 minutes, and added that proposed response times are based on actual responses as first-responders.
The district would also rely on its existing personnel to staff the proposed 13 paramedics and 14 EMTs.
"We're pretty much ready to go. We have the facilities. We have the personnel. We have the expertise. The only thing that was missing was the transport to the hospital. We have everything else. We've been doing it for years." said O'Donohue.
O'Donohue said the department would have to purchase two more ambulances in addition to the two it already owns, as well as hire three new staff members.
He also expects to see a profit within the first year, possibly within the first few months of operation.
"When we began, we wanted to determine that there was public need and community support. After answering yes to both, we wanted to see if the business was self-sustaining," said O'Donohue.
"The answer is, we will bring back into the fire district nearly half a million dollars a year. If you don't count the new staff, we should be showing a profit nearly immediately."
The governing board was split on how to take the news, with governing board member Mark Vanik saying it was "good news for a change."
Governing board member Jack Hommell, a staunch opponent of the district's pursuit of a district-run ambulance service, said he "still thinks that it is poison to this community."
"I have doubted the whole scheme from the beginning. I think it's going to bankrupt the community and this district. I am going to continue to fight to stop it by some means," said Hommell.
According to River Medical's spokesperson Ron Cunningham, the company will look at the decision before making any decisions.
"We're reviewing the deicion right now. It just came out. We're going to continue to provide service to Golden Valley, with no interruption of services to residents," said Cunningham.
"We'll take it from there and decide what to do."